Cultural Jam

Image Analysis 

The advertisement I chose for this assignment is Nivea’s invisible spray on deodorant. The focus of this ad is a young woman sitting on her bed, facing a window with her back to the camera. She has perfect long wavy brown hair and is wearing a long-sleeve white blouse. The only visible text on this particular advertisement are the words “White is Purity” in a bold blue font. These words are centered midway down the women’s lower back. The actual product supposedly being advertised, Nivea’s spay on deodorant, is shoved into the far bottom right corner, seemingly an afterthought. The text on the product, the only indicator of what the product is, remains barely legible because it is so small. If someone were to crop the image by a few centimeters this image would shift from an advertisement to racist propaganda.

While the advertisers were probably attempting to allude that the deodorant will stop any yellow sweat stains from ruining the purity and the whiteness of the model’s shirt, the text alone portals a very different image. Instead, this text follows the suggestion that being white and fair skinned is the equivalent of remaining virtuous and uncontaminated. This claim that only white represents purity, or represents the highest level of purity is detrimental to all women of colour. Women of colour across the world have felt the lasting effects of being part of a society that values women of lighter pigmentation over those with darker. This incredible pressure felt by darker pigmented women to look a certain way in order to seem desirable or to be of worth has horrifically led to the booming market of skin whiteners.

As research has continuously shown, ads can influence us below our level of awareness by entering our subconscious through subliminal messaging. It is, therefore, vitally important that advertisers remain aware of how their ads can impact and affect the masses. This image alongside the text “White is purity” falls short and furthers the subconscious and conscious message we have seen so frequently in the media. This product may be the best of its kind, but the message it present through this advertisement perpetuates a harmful message to women of colour.

 Image Re-Jammed  

As the original message of the advertisement was simple and to the point, I decided to keep my alteration of the image equally simple. Instead of simply having the writing say “White is Purity”, I crossed out the word purity with a translucent red line, so that it remained legible, and added the line “a social construct” beneath. Therefore the text on the image will now read “White is a Social Construct”. This addition reflects on how ideas of hegemony and superiority based on skin pigmentation are ridiculous.

The creation of white elitism or white hegemony is an ideological construct based on centuries of racial discrimination that has been continuously reinforced in our everyday lives. However, despite how ingrained these ideas have become in our society, they remain a social construct with no biological evidence. The Nivea advertisement is especially worrisome due to the immense popularity and globality of the brand, as well its ability to reach young impressionable consumers. This is particularly concerning in countries like India, where women are still judged and weighed by both the caste system, as well as levels of melanin found in their skin pigment. Ads like this one only work to reinforce the narrative that white is beauty and everything else is less than.

My intent of showcasing the original text alongside the additional text was to remind consumers that white is nothing more than a shade. It is not the definition of purity, it is not the measure of beauty, and it will never be superior. All the other definition or connotations that the word white has become attached to by our society is only work to push and reinforce this troubling narrative that works to exclude rather than include. It is my hopes that this additional text effectively calls out Nivea and other brands that push their products in a way that undermines the value of women and men of colour. While my first thought for the re-jam was to only crop out the deodorant to show how tone-deaf this ad truly is, I decided by leaving in the product placement and the company responsible I could remove the shock value and work to educate.